Two violin concertos breathe the air of outdoors on Now Is the Time, Saturday, May 3rd at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Neil Rolnick at Harvard was looking for extra work, and answered an ad for a gardener. It happened to be at the house of the world-famous Bauhaus architect, Walter Gropius. In Gardening at Gropius House, for chamber ensemble with computer, Rolnick combines his love of two things in art that he hopes are not in conflict: avant-garde modernism and a good tune.
Twilight, Midnight, Romance, and Dawn are some of the movement titles in Ned Rorem's Violin Concerto. He almost named the piece Concertino or Variations, since there is no real program behind the music. Still, that combination of lightness and gravity, which suffuses all of Rorem's works, breathes of spring, and of air.
We remember the living and the dying on Now Is the Time, Saturday, April 26th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. The music of Michael Hersch is always strong, always dark, and always provocative, but its true power lies in its vibrancy, always reaching out to us. Images from a Closed Ward refers to drawings by Michael Mazur of psychiatric patients. The lithographs and the music are tough but compelling; the sadness is deep, but the humanity, sublime. The Blair String Quartet plays this riveting 13-movement work.
A separate string orchestra piece that is also part of her second symphony, Ghosts of Judith Lang Zaimont salutes the composers Scriabin, Britten, Ravel, Berg, Christopher Rouse, and Laurie Anderson. But—and this is important—it is by no means a pastiche of other styles. Ghosts is a thoroughly integrated work of imagination and depth.
We dream our lives and live our dreams on Now Is the Time, Saturday, April 19th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Bright Sheng's romantic orchestral work China Dreams includes movements called The Stream Flows and The Three Gorges of the Long River. The tragedy of U.S. duplicity before and after the Battle of the Little Bighorn is the subject of We Need to Dream All This Again. Jerome Kitzke writes, "let's dance, and call it praying," as he honors the Native American building of a new life by dreaming that life.
Clarinet and four-hand piano unfold through digital delay in the evocative Passage Through a Dream by Phillip Schroeder, and Zeitgeist closes out the show with the humorous and quirky Getting Your Z's (Or Not) by Janika Vandervelde.
We arrive at the corner of Jazz and Classical on Now Is the Time, Saturday, April 12th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Chicago a cappella scats with Pleasure the music of Malcolm Dalglish, and solo piano tries out David Baker's Jazz Dance Suite as well as The Blue Hula by Tobias Picker.
John Musto's Divertimento for chamber ensemble has jazz and popular music overtones, but there's no mistaking the straight-ahead jazz worldview in three works by Philadelphia's Adam Berenson (even if he turns a corner here and there), from his brand-new 2-CD release Lumen. He's the pianist, along with bass and drums, in his Late 20th Century Stomp, Emotional Idiot, and Respectable People.
WRTI celebrates Passover with two great specials:A Musical Feast for Passover with Itzhak Perlman: Wednesday, April 16 at 7 pm on WRTI HD-2 and the All-Classical stream at wrti.org, and The Passover Story with Theodore Bikel: Saturday, April 19 at 11:30 am on Crossover.
Once upon a time, in the world of classical music, there lived the "Big Five." The term was used to lump together the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and our own Philadelphia Orchestra as the finest performing orchestras in the U.S.
But, over time, as other orchestras gained stature, both in performance and finances, the term became passe and no longer indicative of the American orchestral scene.
So done with March and feeling like a new start, we've got all preludes on Now Is the Time, Saturday, April 5th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Stephen Paulus writes comfortably in every genre; we start the program with a short, sassy work played by pianist Lara Downes, his Prelude No. 3: Sprightly. Guitarist David Starobin and composer William Bland go way back to their school days. Starobin loves playing Bland's music, and we'll hear six of a projected cycle of 48 Preludes.
Then we return to the piano for the 12 Preludes of Bernard Rands, covering a wide landscape of emotional and tonal range. Included are two movements in memoriam of composer colleagues of Rands, Luciano Berio and Donald Martino.
Network For New Music, the award-winning new music ensemble and organization based in Philadelphia, looks at the music of the eclectic composer and pianist John Harbison at concerts and workshops from April 4 to 6, featuring music inspired by jazz, poetry, and American popular song.
Let the larks play! They sing us into spring on Now Is the Time, Saturday, March 29th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Jennifer Higdon considered "exaltation" not only to be a wonderful collective noun but also a pretty good title, so she wrote the romantic and soaring An Exaltation of Larks for string quartet. We get to hear, appropriately, the Lark Quartet in this recording.
Daniel Goode loves birds, too, and weaves examples of different thrushes into one mega-birdsong for an unusual orchestra in Tuba Thrush. Benjamin Beirs describes circles, whorls, and storms in Fluidity. It's for his instrument, the guitar, and is inspired by the paintings of Sunny Gibbons, who is his sister. Book-ending the program are two works—one for marimba, one for vibraphone—by Alvin Singleton. He titles them Argoru, which is the Ghanaian word meaning "to play."
When Bach wrote his Inventions and Sinfonias BWV 772-801, he described them this way, "An Honest Guide by which lovers of the clavier, and particularly those with a desire to learn, are shown a plain way, not only (1) to learn and play neatly in two parts, but also, with further progress, (2) to play correctly and well in three obligato parts; and, at the same time, not only to obtain good musical themes, but also to develop them well; above all, however, to achieve a cantabile style of playing, and along with it, to gain a strong foretaste of composition."